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Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Nomination


Location: Washington, DC

Thank-you, Madam Chairman, I join you in welcoming our distinguished panel. I would like to extend a personal welcome to Chris Stevens, who spent a year on the Committee Staff in the 2005-2006 timeframe. He then went to Tripoli as Deputy Chief of Mission during reopening of diplomatic relations with Libya after 27 years. For much of that tour, Chris was the Chargé d'Affairs and lead interlocutor with the Qadhafi government. Chris was assigned again to Libya exactly a year ago, but this time his post was to be in Benghazi as the Special Envoy from our government to the Transitional National Council.

Chris has served his country for 22 years on issues related to North Africa and the Middle East. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, and as a Foreign Service officer, he served tours in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jerusalem, and Libya. I understand his family is here from Oakland, California, and I hope he will introduce them to the Committee.

Madam Chairman, I valued Chris's knowledge and insight while he was on my staff, and also have appreciated his willingness to offer counsel on the situation in Libya over the past year. I am very pleased the President has nominated a man whose substantive knowledge, experience, and respected leadership are so well suited to his posting.

It is also a pleasure to welcome Ambassador Carlos Pascual, whose distinguished record is well-known to the Committee. In particular, I appreciate his efforts to promote the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program as Ambassador to Ukraine. Through the Nunn-Lugar partnership, Ukraine is nuclear weapons free. Carlos also served as the first Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, a position I had long believed was needed to make our policies in post-conflict situations more effective. Currently, Ambassador Pascual serves as International Energy Coordinator, a position I prescribed and was signed into law by President Bush in 2007 with the primary mission of putting energy at the top of our diplomatic agenda and better leveraging relevant activities and expertise across our government.

America's dependence on foreign oil imports from volatile and unreliable regimes is one of our foremost national security vulnerabilities. Iran's threat to shatter global economic recovery and splinter allied opposition to their nuclear weapons program by using their oil exports as leverage is just the most visible example today. The hundreds of billions of dollars we use to buy oil from autocratic regimes complicate our own national security policies by entrenching corruption, financing regional repression and war, and inflating Defense Department costs.

Given the multiple crises in the Middle East, and the certainty that threats to oil supplies are not limited to the current Iran situation, President Obama did not act in our national interest when he rejected approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Even his own Energy Department says that Keystone would help lower gasoline prices. Ambassador Pascual, I understand that you were not involved in the 1,217 days of Keystone XL analysis or the final decision. However, you will be responsible for any future application and will need to restore confidence in the State Department's independence from White House politics. I would like you to share with us today specific steps you will take to ensure an expeditious review of any new Keystone XL application.

While broad energy security solutions will take time, I urge the Administration to put in place, now, credible plans to manage an oil supply disruption. In particular, among the most significant challenges to enforcing strong sanctions on Iranian oil is concern over high gas prices. In addition to steps to increase domestic supply liquidity, international planning is needed. The administration should actively accelerate pipeline alternatives around the Strait of Hormuz and approve the Keystone XL border crossing. It should work to improve data transparency and reporting in oil markets, such as prospects for new production to come online in Iraq, South Sudan, and Colombia. It needs to update international emergency response coordinating mechanisms and it needs to bring two of the fastest growing oil consumers, China and India, into that system. And it should state clearly that restricting trade in energy is against U.S. interests. In other words, protecting Americans from oil price spikes takes more than talk of a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Ambassador, I would appreciate your assessment of where we stand on achieving each of these goals.

Finally, Jake Walles has served with distinction over a 30-year career in the Foreign Service -- much of that time focused on promoting peace and stability in the Middle East. Most recently he served as deputy assistant secretary of state with responsibility for Egypt, the Levant, Israel, and Palestinian affairs. Given the importance to the United States of Tunisia's continuing transition to democracy, I am pleased that someone with his wealth of regional experience and perspective has been nominated to this post.

Thank-you Madam Chairman.

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